What are PRISM maps?

PRISM maps represent the dynamic interaction that takes place within the brain

The PRISM method of presenting behaviour by creating ‘maps’ that are visual representations of a person’s behavioural preferences - as expressed through answers provided to the PRISM questionnaire - is in keeping with the principle of Gestalt psychology. This principle maintains that ‘the whole is different from the sum of its parts’. PRISM emphasises the study of behaviour as a whole rather than simply focusing on independently functioning, disparate parts. PRISM is designed to measure a person’s expressed preferences for each of eight dimensions of behaviour. The expressed preferences are plotted as levels of intensity on eight axes and the plots are joined up to form a ‘map’ which is overlaid on the PRISM schema. The ‘maps’ are designed to show the intensity of the respondent’s self-expressed preferences for the relevant behaviours and not the specific physical location of those behaviours within the brain.

Brain Hemisheres

The basic PRISM model is a ‘schema’ of the human brain

A schema is a diagrammatic representation of a complex system (such as the brain) to aid understanding. The first use of schemas as a concept was in 1932 by a British psychologist, named Frederic Bartlett, as part of his learning theory.

Please click here to read our notes regarding the presentation of neuroscientific research.

The PRISM schema provides a highly simplified, graphical representation of how the brain’s functional architecture and four of its chemical systems: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen, interact to create specific behaviour groupings. Although behaviour is produced by the interaction of specific chemicals and networks, it is important to bear in mind that no one part of the brain does solely one thing and no one part of the brain acts alone. While many functions are, indeed, associated with particular areas, each function nonetheless depends on interactions in widely distributed networks involving many different areas. It follows, therefore, that PRISM does not subscribe to the once widely held belief that people are either 'right-brained' or 'left-brained'. This was commonly referred to as ‘brain dominance’ - a theory now totally discounted by neuroscientists.

In 2013, University of Utah neuroscientists analysed brain scans from more than 1,000 people, aged 7 to 29 looking for indications that people are more likely to use either the right or left side of the brain, but found no signs that this was the case. Dr. Jeff Anderson, Director of the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service at the University, concluded that:

It's absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But the brain isn't as clear-cut as it has sometimes been made out to be.

Nielsen, J.A., Zielinski, B.A., Ferguson, M.A., Lainhart, J.E.

'An evaluation of the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis with resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging'.
The brain structures that give rise to the PRISM model are summarised below by Professor James E Zull, Professor of Biology, Biochemistry, and Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. In his book, ‘The Art of Changing the Brain, (Stylus Publishing VA)’, he states:
The cerebral cortex of the brain has three key functions. They are: sensing, integrating, and motor (i.e. movement). The sensing function refers to the receipt of signals from the outside world. In people, these signals are picked up by the sense organs; eyes, ears, skin, mouth, and nose. They are then sent on to special regions of the brain for each of the senses.
Integration means that these individual signals get added up so that whatever is being sensed is recognized in the sum of all these signals. The small bits merge into bigger patterns that become meaningful things like images or language. Finally, the motor function is the execution of those plans and ideas by the body. Ultimately, motor signals are sent to the muscles that contract and relax in coordinated ways to create sophisticated movements.

He goes on to state:

There is a functional difference between the back and front integrative cortex. Sensory input to the brain, input from the outside world, goes predominantly to the back half. This part of the cortex is heavily involved in long-term memory - the past.
It is clear that the brain is wired so that the front and back talk to each other and that evolution placed great value on these connections. Generally, the receiving and remembering part of the brain is located towards the back, and that which generates ideas and actions is in the front.